My World of “Ought to Be”
by Timothy Wilken, MD

Subscribe to "My World of  “Ought to Be”" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Friday, April 09, 2004

Seven Stars: A Better Way

Laura Sayre writes: Today, Seven Stars processes about 1.25 million pounds of milk per year (about three-quarters of which is produced on-farm), makes 175 to 200 quarts of yogurt a day six days a week, and employs 15 people year-round. ... Seven Stars is home to an 80-cow herd of mixed Jersey, Guernsey, and Holstein crosses. They all have names as well as numbers, and they all get to keep their horns (except for Cerveza, the bull), which gives them an individuality and even a majesty you don't realize is missing in de-horned animals. Milking takes place twice a day, at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m., two milkers working their way toward each other from opposite ends of the barn. Each cow gets two months off around calving time. "They're really hard-working, these little Jerseys," says Edie, who takes her own share of barn shifts; at least two a week. "They'll milk the fat right off their backs if you ask them to." ... The Seven Stars processing facility is remarkably simple: One room holds the milk tanks, another serves as an incubator, a third is a cooler, a fourth is storage and an informal shop front (you can buy direct here, but only by the case). In between, a large room holds the machine that makes and packages the yogurt: bringing the milk down to the correct temperature after pasteurization, adding the live yogurt cultures, pumping it into the 32-ounce containers and sealing, capping, and date-stamping them. To preserve this simplicity, they have kept their product line strictly minimalist, selling just three flavors of whole milk yogurt (plain, maple, and vanilla) and two of lowfat (plain and maple), all and only in one-quart containers. "If you do cups, you need to have a whole range of flavors to fill out the shelf," Edie points out. They’re just not interested in that sort of complication. Instead, they've established a loyal customer base devoted to their distinctive product.  (04/09/04)


Learning to Expect the Unexpected

Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes: A black swan is an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because that's what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are. Our minds are designed to retain, for efficient storage, past information that fits into a compressed narrative. This distortion, called the hindsight bias, prevents us from adequately learning from the past. Black swans can have extreme effects: just a few explain almost everything, from the success of some ideas and religions to events in our personal lives. Moreover, their influence seems to have grown in the 20th century, while ordinary events — the ones we study and discuss and learn about in history or from the news — are becoming increasingly inconsequential. Consider: How would an understanding of the world on June 27, 1914, have helped anyone guess what was to happen next? The rise of Hitler, the demise of the Soviet bloc, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, the Internet bubble: not only were these events unpredictable, but anyone who correctly forecast any of them would have been deemed a lunatic (indeed, some were). This accusation of lunacy would have also applied to a correct prediction of the events of 9/11 — a black swan of the vicious variety. (04/09/04)


Living Longer

Jeanne-Louise Calment at 122 years of ageBBC Science -- Scientists are trying to find out which genes govern whether or not people live long lives. A study will take DNA samples from 3,000 90-year-old brothers and sisters. A team led by Professor Claudio Franceschi at the Italian National Research Centre on Ageing will then analyse their genetic make-up. Once they have found the genes which govern ageing, they hope to develop medicines which allow people to stay healthy for longer. Professor Franceschi said: "Theoretically, there is no upper limit for human life, so 110, 120, 125 and so on is possible." The Genetics of Healthy Ageing study is taking place across Europe at a cost of 7million euros and the plans have been presented to the Human Genome Meeting in Berlin. Professor Franceschi hopes to have identified the relevant genes within five years. The study will also consider the effect of lifestyle on the age that people live to. "There are certain families that contain several centenarians, which is highly improbable by chance," said Professor Franceschi. The children of longer lived parents tend to survive into old age themselves. ... The search for the elixir of life has baffled scientists for centuries, and the elderly themselves have their own theories about living a long life. Agnes Henderson, who is 89, said: "The secret of my long life is to keep your mind occupied and not sit and look at four walls and get depressed." Professor Franceschi's team hope to be able to provide a scientific answer to the question, but he agrees that exercising the body and mind are vital. His previous research has studied centenarians and the effect of the immune system on ageing. Andrea Lane at Help the Aged said: "We very much welcome research of this type into the field of ageing. (04/09/04)


Protecting Earth from Asteroids

asteroid, nasaBBC Science -- An unmanned spacecraft should test ways to deflect a threatening asteroid, two astronauts have told the US government. Rusty Schweickart and Edward Lu said a mission of this type could be launched to an asteroid in 2015. In February, Earth was almost placed on impact alert because of an asteroid then thought to be on an impact course. Mr Schweickart told a hearing that "the media and the general public realise that asteroids are of more than passing interest." Testifying before an investigation into the threat from asteroids to the Earth, Apollo astronaut Russell L Schweickart called for a new mission to develop the technologies needed to protect the Earth. "More and more people are coming to know that some few of these asteroids do not silently pass the Earth, but indeed crash in, largely unannounced. "On the rare occasions when this happens they can wreak havoc of a magnitude unprecedented in human history." He pointed out that even the small, most frequent events are more powerful than the blast from the most powerful nuclear weapon in the current US nuclear arsenal. A known threat that can potentially destroy millions of lives and can be predicted to occur ahead of time, and prevented, cannot responsibly go unaddressed," he said. Scientists realise that they lack much fundamental information about asteroids that would hamper them if they ever needed to contemplate nudging one off an Earth-impact course. To remedy this, Schweickart said the US should "adopt the goal of altering the orbit of an asteroid, in a controlled manner, by 2015". He added that, in his view, such a mission would not require the development of additional new technologies. "The key capabilities required are already "in the pipeline" of the existing Prometheus Program. No new Nasa money is required, nor is a change in Nasa's mission called for." Astronaut Edward Lu, recently back from the International Space Station, backed the audacious plan. "The first attempt to deflect an asteroid should not be when it counts for real, because there are no doubt many surprises in store as we learn how to manipulate asteroids," he said. He added that the demonstration asteroid should be large enough to represent a real risk, and the technology used should be scaleable in the future to larger asteroids. (04/09/04)


Oldest Pet?

The cats at Shillourokambos may have been like this African wildcatBBC Science -- The oldest known evidence of people keeping cats as pets may have been discovered by archaeologists. The discovery of a cat buried with what could be its owner in a Neolithic grave on Cyprus suggests domestication of cats had begun 9,500 years ago. It was thought the Egyptians were first to domesticate cats, with the earliest evidence dating to 2,000-1,900 BC. French researchers writing in Science magazine show that the process actually began much earlier than that. The evidence comes from the Neolithic, or late stone age, village of Shillourokambos on Cyprus, which was inhabited from the 9th to the 8th millennia BC. "The cat we found in the grave may have been pre-domesticated - something in between savage and domestic. Alternatively, it's possible it was really domestic," Professor Jean Guilaine of the CNRS Centre d'Anthropologie in Toulouse, France told BBC News Online. "We have this situation of the person and the cat. This same situation of men and dogs are known much earlier from the Natufian culture of Israel which dates to 12-11,000 BC." The complete cat skeleton was found about 40 cm from a human burial. The similar states of preservation and positions of the burials in the ground suggest the person and the cat were buried together. The person, who is about 30 years of age, but of unknown sex, was buried with offerings such as polished stone, axes, flint tools and ochre pigment. Based on this the researchers argue that the person was of high status and may have had a special relationship with cats. Cats might have had religious as well as material significance to the stone age Cypriots, the French archaeologists add. "It's difficult to say the cat was a religious animal but it probably played a role in the symbolic and imaginative world of these people," Prof Guilaine explained. During the Neolithic, when agriculture was beginning to spread from the Near East, grain storage would have attracted large mice populations. So cats may have been encouraged to settle in villages to control the mice. "If this hypothesis is true, cats could have been attracted into the villages as early as there were mice. These mice in the Near East were present as early as 12,000 years ago," co-author Dr Jean-Denis Vigne of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. (04/09/04)


6:22:49 AM    

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © TrustMark 2004 Timothy Wilken.
Last update: 4/12/2004; 5:58:56 AM.
This theme is based on the SoundWaves (blue) Manila theme.
April 2004
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  
Mar   May

This site is a member of WebRing. To browse visit here.